Editorial: Will Higher-Ed Law Earn Passing Grade?
For the past 30 years, Indonesia’s higher-education system was managed on the principle of equality where access was the main focus.
The goal was to get as many young people as possible into universities. In the early 1970s and 1980s, this was critical to boost the ranks of tertiary-educated people.
Getting enough young people into higher education is still vital, but it is time to improve the quality of graduates and to make tertiary education relevant to today’s economic and social needs. Our education system must adapt to a changing world.
It is with this in mind that the new law on higher education must be viewed. State universities can now be run as a working unit, general services unit (BLU) or a state university legal entity (PTN BH).
Under the first two schemes, the state would retain considerable control of the universities. A PTN BH university would have greater autonomy, which includes finding sources of funding from outside the state budget.
The government insists the legislation is meant to close the gap in education quality between the 83 state universities and 3,000 private schools, as well as guarantee a minimum proportion of places for underprivileged students.
The ultimate goal must be to raise the overall standard of tertiary education in the country. Needy students who find it a challenge to afford tuition fees should have access to bursaries and scholarships from the university or private schemes. But these students must first be admitted into a university.
Critics who fear that fees could be raised too high by some universities must be assured that if they are admitted, they can seek financial assistance. This way, standards can be kept high while ensuring that smart but financially disadvantaged students can also get a shot at going to university.